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Civil Asset Forfeiture Disclosures Will Soon Be Required In Alabama

Written by on May 30, 2019

The House has given final passage to a substitute bill of SB 191 that would increase transparency around civil asset forfeiture in Alabama. The bill becomes law immediately after approval from Governor Kay Ivey.

The substitute, by Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur), would require the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center Commission to annually submit a report to the Legislature summarizing seizure and forfeiture activity in the state.

The bill also requires that any funds or monies obtained through civil asset forfeiture show as a separate line item in the agencies budget.

The substitute is a compromise from the original bill, which aimed to set guidelines for when civil asset forfeiture could take effect. In the original, a conviction would be required to utilize civil asset forfeiture.

Alabama Arise, who supported the original bill, issued a statement shortly after the bills final passage. You can read their full statement below.

Alabama Arise Statement On SB 191

SB 191’s passage is a good first step toward bringing more transparency to Alabama’s civil asset forfeiture practices. This bill will help shine some needed light on this process, and we hope the governor signs it. But simply gathering more information about the problem isn’t enough. We must change our state’s forfeiture practices to ensure they protect due process for all Alabamians.

Alabama’s current civil asset forfeiture practices allow too much room for abuse. Hundreds of Alabamians lose cash, cars and other property under this practice every year. Many of them are never convicted of a crime – or even charged with one. And many people can’t afford to hire a lawyer to challenge these seizures in court.

The original version of this bill showed the path to real reform. It would have required a felony conviction before property became subject to forfeiture in most cases. It also would have required the state to meet a higher burden of proof in connecting property to a crime. And it would have mandated a detailed, publicly searchable database laying out the full scale of seizures in the state.

These reforms are still needed, and we’ll continue to fight for them. We thank all of the Alabama Arise members and other advocates across the state who helped SB 191 win legislative approval. And we appreciate their determination to keep pushing for the comprehensive change that the people of our state need and want.

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